The Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea has been moved from Istanbul to Portugal, UEFA has announced.
The decision was made after the British government put Turkey on its Covid-19 travel destinations red list. As a result, anyone traveling from or through Turkey must enter hotel quarantine for 10 days on their return to the UK at a cost of £1,750 per person.
The mandatory quarantine and prohibitive fee would have deterred thousands of City and Chelsea fans from travelling to Istanbul to see their team play in the final, prompting Europe’s football chiefs to move the game.
The UEFA Champions League final will now be held at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto on 29 May 2021, kick off 8pm UK time after the Portuguese FA (FPF) and the Portuguese authorities offered to stage the game.
Six thousand tickets will be offered to each club for the game. The full stadium capacity will be “confirmed in due course in cooperation with the Portuguese authorities and the FPF”, UEFA said in its statement issued on Thursday, 13 May.
The final was originally scheduled to take place at the Atatürk Stadium in Istanbul but, following the UK government’s decision to place Turkey on its red list, staging the final there would have meant very few of the clubs’ domestic fans being able to travel to the game.
After a year of fans being locked out of stadiums, UEFA was keen to ensure the maximum number of supporters of the two finalist teams could attend and see the game live, which wouldn’t be possible in Istanbul after Turkey was added to the UK’s red list. Nor was it possible to play the final in Britain.
UEFA thanked the Turkish FA for their “continued partnership and cooperative spirit, as well as the understanding they showed in this particular circumstance”
UEFA discussed moving the final to Wembley but, “despite exhaustive efforts on the part of the Football Association”, it was not possible to achieve the necessary quarantine exemptions from the British authorities for all international visitors.
An offer from the Portuguese authorities and the FPF to UEFA to host the match ticked all the boxes. Portugal is a green list destination for England, enabling fans and players to attend the final without the worry of having to quarantine on their return home.
In its announcement UEFA expressed its disappointment for Turkey at not being able to host the final in Istanbul, and thanked the Turkish football authorities for their “continued partnership and cooperative spirit, as well as the understanding they showed in this particular circumstance”.
Announcing the decision, UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin said:
“I think we can all agree that we hope never to experience a year like the one we have just endured.
“Fans have had to suffer more than twelve months without the ability to see their teams live and reaching a Champions League final is the pinnacle of club football. To deprive those supporters of the chance to see the match in person was not an option and I am delighted that this compromise has been found.”
“Once again we have turned to our friends in Portugal to help both UEFA and the Champions League and I am, as always, very grateful to the FPF and the Portuguese Government for agreeing to stage the match at such short notice’” Mr Čeferin added.
“We accept that the decision of the British Government to place Turkey on the red list for travel was taken in good faith and in the best interests of protecting its citizens from the spread of the virus but it also presented us with a major challenge in staging a final featuring two English teams.
“The difficulties of moving the final are great and the FA and the authorities made every effort to try to stage the match in England and I would like to thank them for their work in trying to make it happen,” the UEFA President continued, while also stating:
“The Turkish football federation and the Turkish authorities have recognised the UEFA’s efforts to give fans of the competing clubs a chance to watch the game.
“The Turkish Football Federation and the authorities have always been reliable partners of UEFA and Turkey has hosted many UEFA events over the years with great success. I hope to be in Istanbul and Turkey for a Champions League final and many other events in the near future.
“I hope the final will be a symbol of hope at the re-emergence of Europe from a difficult period and that the fans who travel to the game will once again be able to lend their voices to showcase this final as the best in club football.”